Monday, October 10, 2011

Death Is Gain

And now the prize awaits me-- the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me, but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing. 2 Tim. 4:8
This fifth crown, the crown of righteousness, is for those who are looking forward to Christ's return. I referenced this briefly in a previous post, as I shared what it means to honestly have a heavenly mindset, one that sincerely longs with an unquenchable ache to be physically present with Jesus and to leave this world behind without ever looking back. When your heart and mind are aligned with Christ's, you understand what Paul meant when he said, "To live is Christ and to die is gain." (Phil. 1:21) or as the New Living Translation puts it, "For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better." How many people do you know that could honestly say they look forward to death because it means life with Christ? Could you?

Pastor J. Mark Martin of Calvary Community Church in Phoenix explains that people who are sincerely looking forward to the return of Christ do these three things:

  • They see the invisible: Those who are aware of the reality of who God is and what he is capable of understand that there is far more to this world than what we can see with our eyes. There is a very real spiritual world, as we are told in Ephesians 6:12, one made up of both angels and demons. There is a true battle going on around us. And as Elisha so boldly reminded his servant in 2 Kings 6:16, as they were seemingly alone, surrounded by the enemy, we need never fear, because God is ALWAYS with us!
When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. "Oh, sir, what will we do now?" the young man cried to Elisha.
"Don't be afraid!" Elisha told him. "For there are more on our side than on theirs!" Then Elisha prayed, "O Lord, open his eyes and let  him see!" The Lord opened the young man's eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire. 2 Kings 6:15-17
  • They hear the inaudible: They cultivate an ability to "hear" from the Lord. God may not speak to us audibly the way he used to in the Old Testament, but He absolutely still speaks. However, it most likely will not be a shout, but rather, a gentle whisper...
"Go out and stand before me on the mountain," the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. 1 Kings 19:11-13 (emphasis added)
Learning to listen for that gentle whisper takes a willingness simply to be still and to be quiet. And it takes the obedience to pour yourself fully into His Word. The Bible is the living, breathing, direct word of God. It is His love letter to us. It is how He speaks to us. Every word, from Genesis to Revelation, is inerrant, infallible, and unshakably applicable to every person and every life! God WILL NOT contradict his word; if you feel that God is telling you to do something or giving you "permission" to do something that does not line up in any way with any part of scripture, then it is NOT a word from God. We must learn to listen AND to obey.
  • They embrace the imperishable: With seeing the invisible and hearing the inaudible, comes the ability to see and respond to the world through God's eyes. We need to be able to see everything and everyone for what they really are. There are only two kinds of things and two kinds of people in this world: there are "things" that will last forever and things that will soon be gone; and there are people who know Jesus and people who don't. It needs to be our mission to understand the difference and to look at the world through that lens. It all comes back to what is eternal and what is not. When we stand before Jesus, what will merit one of these heavenly crowns, and what will be burned up and blown away with the chaff? And how many people who we knew on this earth will be standing there beside us? How many will not?
Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23, "Not everyone who calls out to me, 'Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, 'Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' But I will reply, 'I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws.'"

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